Province settles $750K claim of man sexually abused as a teen by social worker

ST. JOHN'S, N.L. — A man who was lured from the notorious Mount Cashel orphanage at age 15, plied with alcohol and sexually abused by a social worker has reached a $750,000 settlement with Newfoundland and Labrador.

The government admitted liability and agreed to pay one of the highest settlements of its kind ever offered by the province.

"They're horrific," Justice Minister Andrew Parsons said of the case facts.

"It's very disturbing and certainly tough to read," he said Thursday in an interview. "This person had their life irreparably damaged."

The claimant can't be named under terms of a publication ban. He had been assigned a social worker in December 1986 because he was apprehensive about moving to the stone orphanage that once stood a short drive from downtown St. John's.

"The plaintiff was wary of Mount Cashel and the social worker assisted with the transition," says a statement of claim.

The claimant's lawyer, Lynn Moore, said he is now in his 40s and has suffered a range of mental health disorders linked to the assault.

She said her client, referred to as John Doe in court documents, is relieved the government acknowledged its responsibility in a case involving what she called a gross violation of trust.

"Our client has been deeply impacted by this abuse," Moore said in an interview. "It has affected all areas all of his life and he has suffered significantly, but he is also an incredibly resilient individual.

"I'm hoping this is a fresh start for him."

Moore said her client was a ward of the province from about 1979 to 1991 and was placed in various foster homes before being sent to the orphanage when he was 15. In the statement of claim filed in May 2016, Moore describes how he was living with his mother in 1986 when the arrangement broke down. He was told he would move to Mount Cashel.

Moore said the social worker assigned by the province developed a relationship with her client, driving him around in his sports car and gaining his trust. Moore said the social worker, who has since died, took the teen to his own home and repeatedly sexually assaulted him.

"The social worker ... basically groomed him and developed a level of trust with our client and then lured him into his own home, plied him with alcohol and sexually abused him in a really invasive way," she said.

The abuse took place over one night, but Moore says the incident has haunted the man throughout his life.

The resulting trauma hampered him at school.

"He did not achieve educationally, because of mental health issues, what he could have achieved," she said. "He has been diagnosed with PTSD, social anxiety disorder and a major depressive disorder."

The then-teenager did not go to police at the time and his abuser was never charged.

Moore said her client did not speak of the assault until 2016 when he decided to make a claim after struggling at work. He linked those troubles to his abuse.

Moore filed an application last March to have the government declared liable, arguing the province failed in its duty to care for the young man and to properly evaluate and monitor the social worker.

That case was heard last October, when the province consented to the application and agreed it was liable.

"This was a young person who was in government's care. An individual took advantage of that, and took advantage of their position," Parsons said Thursday.

Moore said the settlement was reached last month.

Mount Cashel was run by the Christian Brothers, a Roman Catholic lay order. Former residents have said they were sexually, physically and verbally abused going as far back as the 1940s. 

The orphanage was closed in 1990 and torn down two years later.

The North American branch of the Christian Brothers of Ireland Inc. filed for bankruptcy after a barrage of court cases and claims. Their assets were ultimately liquidated and distributed – including a $16.5-million settlement in 2013 that involved about 420 claimants across North America, around 150 of them in Newfoundland.

—With files from Alison Auld in Halifax.

Sue Bailey, The Canadian Press

Latest Blogs